Sabate tests DIAM closure.
Conducted by master sommelier Larry Stone, of San Francisco's Rubicon restaurant, the double-blind tasting was the first of its kind. Participants tasted a variety of wines, some bottled with Sabate's cork-based DIAM stopper, others sealed with natural cork, screwcaps or technical corks. The object of the tasting was to see if there is a demonstrable statistical difference between wines that have been sealed with different closures.
The tasting included 24 sets of identical red, white or rose wines--one in each set sealed with DIAM and the other with a control closure. A dozen wines were sealed with DIAM closures, eight with natural cork, two with screwcaps and two with technical corks. The sample wines--mostly from California, with a few from Australia and Germany--were from the 2001-2004 vintages.
Participants tasted the wines in random order, so the identical wines were not tasted side by side. Each wine was to be given a numerical rating based on appearance, aroma, palate and overall quality. Any defects were to be noted.
After the tasters recorded scores for each individual wine, Stone identified the identical pairs. The pairs were then evaluated side by side, and tasters noted which wine in each pair they preferred.
After Stone collected the tasting sheets, he revealed the identities of the wines and the closures with which each was sealed. An independent accountant tabulated the scores and announced the results.
So what was the verdict? Overall, the group preferred wines sealed with Sabate's DIAM, or found them to be equivalent to those sealed with the other closures (this was true for eight of the 12 wines). When going head-to-head with natural cork, the DIAM wines scored just below natural cork. (As for myself, I slightly preferred the DIAM-sealed wines to the cork-sealed wines.)
This came as no surprise to Sabate USA president Eric Mercier, who said he expected the natural cork to score a bit higher, since it is the worldwide standard. However, he said that DIAM's "ability to eliminate TCA taint, reduced cost and near-equivalency to natural cork" give it a distinct advantage over natural cork closures. According to Mercier, DIAM also addresses the issues of elasticity, random oxidation and reduction, and company tests show that it's acceptable to consumers.
At around 13 cents per stopper, DIAM costs about one-third the price of natural cork. According to Sabate, DIAM was not designed for wines that will undergo long-term storage; it is best for medium-length or shorter-term storage. The company is positioning its new closure as a reasonably priced, consumer-friendly alternative for wineries that want to avoid TCA, but aren't comfortable switching to screwcaps. (DIAM stoppers resemble composite-type closures.)
Developed jointly by Sabate and the French Atomic Energy Commission, DIAM closures undergo a supercritical C[O.sub.2] extraction process (the same process used to decaffeinate coffee), which selectively extracts TCA from raw cork granules. According to Mercier, the process ensures that releasable TCA levels in cork are unmeasurable by modern lab instruments (less than 0.5 parts per trillion). DIAM recently won a Gold Medal for Innovation at the 2004 Vinitech trade show in Bordeaux.
In addition to DIAM, Sabate USA offers a variety of closures, including natural cork, technical corks and even a screwcap closure called the S-CAP. So which type of closure is best?
"The company philosophy is that no one wine closure is perfect for all wines," Mercier explained. "The best type of closure depends on the type of wine being made. A light, unoaked white wine, for example, designed for early consumption, may not benefit from the same type of closure that a robust red destined for a 10-year stay in the cellar requires. Closure types depend entirely on the winemaker's intent and style. All things being equal for any specific wine or for many early consumption wines, decisions can also be based on marketing issues."
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|Title Annotation:||wine tasting|
|Publication:||Wines & Vines|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2005|
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